EVERYONE knows I wear my heart on my sleeve — and never more so than at Royal Ascot.
So, I’m just warning you, I think it is fair to say today could get emotional.
I’ve been thinking about today for a few weeks now so, touch wood, if things go well, don’t be surprised if I shed a few tears.
Every horse you ride and every race you win at this meeting feels extra special and I have been lucky enough to have had some of my best days at this meeting. I’m just praying today can be another one of them.
Today is the most important day of the meeting for me.
STRADIVARIUS (4.20) runs for the final time at Royal Ascot in the Gold Cup.
And I’ve got two rides for the Queen — the first of which is SAGA (5.00) and then REACH FOR THE MOON (5.35).
I will always remember winning the Ribblesdale on Phantom Gold for Her Majesty. That was a very special moment and it’s always a privilege to pull on her famous silks.
The Gold Cup is the most prestigious race of the week — and the only one where you get to receive the trophy from Her Majesty.
It’s the ultimate feeling of pride and one I’ve been lucky to experience eight times.
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As we all know, Her Majesty loves racing, it’s in her blood, and we’re very lucky to have her as our monarch.
I hope that, come 4.30ish or just after, I will be bowing before the Queen again to receive the trophy. That’s the dream.
Whichever way it goes with Strad, he’ll get a great send-off on his final run at Ascot . . . and I can see myself getting a bit emotional.
He is a horse who has done so much for racing and win, lose or draw he will always be remembered as one of the greatest stayers of all time.
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To run in five Gold Cups is madness and he has just been such a good horse to have around.
Look, he’s not getting any younger and Aidan O’Brien’s horse Kyprios is improving and looks a serious threat.
He is only four years old — half the age of Strad — so has plenty of good years ahead of him.
Kyprios has not run over further than one mile and six furlongs but everyone tells me he will stay the Gold Cup trip of two and a half miles.
We shall see and, certainly on this ground, you would expect him to see out the trip and I am not surprised to see him as the favourite to win.
However he has never run against a horse like Strad before.
I was delighted with his run at York last month and, to be honest, he actually surprised me a bit. It was the 20th win of his career and he completed a perfect six wins from six at that track.
Incredibly it was also his 18th Group race win — a record for a horse in Europe — so whatever he does this afternoon he has nothing to prove.
Yes, Strad did hit a bit of a flat spot — he always does — but then he was soon back on the bridle and he eased clear as only he can do.
He probably got me to the front too soon but Strad just comes alive in front of the crowds and is a real character.
Of course, while I get plenty of nice things written about me when I win — it is John Gosden and his son Thady who must take the credit for Strad.
They changed different things to keep him interested, they have taken him to a few different places just to keep him motivated.
After all he has been going to the same gallops for a few years so we all need freshening up sometimes.
Hopefully it will be a good farewell, because I’m sure it will be his last Ascot and, after that, probably only the Goodwood Cup. I will be excited but I know it will be emotional for me.
He is Strad, the one and only.
All roads since York have led here. Let’s hope we can get one more good roll of the dice this afternoon.
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If we can manage it I will be buzzing for my next ride on Saga in the Britannia. Of course this a tough old handicap, probably one of the hardest of the week but, if we can get a nice run through, he must have a good chance.
He works very well at home but is yet to show that on raceday, so he’s got headgear on for the first time which will hopefully help him to concentrate.
The Britannia is such a hard race to win, with some many lightly-raced three-year-olds, but we’re definitely one of those who are a bit less exposed with plenty of potential.
Saga’s form took a boost as he was a clear second at Kempton to Maljoom, who was an unlucky fourth in Tuesday’s Group 1 St James’s Palace so fingers crossed he will back that up. If we can get our noses in front it will take a bit of pressure off my next ride for the Queen — Reach For The Moon in the Hampton Court Stakes.
He will be a red-hot favourite and is a worthy one. He is a lovely horse and his two-year-old form was very strong. He nearly won the Chesham Stakes here last season.
His first run of the season when behind My Prospero at Sandown was very encouraging.
My Prospero was a close third in the St James’s Palace on Tuesday, too, so that looks another positive.
Reach For The Moon has come on a lot for that run as he needed it after that minor setback he had at the start of the season so we are expecting him to strip a lot fitter for this.
There will certainly be a few nerves this afternoon but nothing I am not used to. When you have been doing this for as long as I have you know how to handle things and what to do.
Sometimes you need just the one plan in a race and everything drops into place. At other times you need a Plan B and a Plan C. We’ll see.
I rode my first Royal Ascot winner in 1990 and little did I think now, in 2022, I have a chance of riding my 77th and, hopefully, 78th!
It’s a big day. They don’t get much bigger.
- Frankie Dettori is a Sporting Index ambassador
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